Posts Tagged ‘To Live and Spy in Berlin’

Reviews A Go Go (and a Book Giveaway!)

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021
Antiques Fire Sale Paperback cover
Paperback:

We are offering ten copies of the paperback edition of Antiques Fire Sale, the hardcover edition of Shoot-out at Sugar Creek (Caleb York #6), and ten copies of the paperback edition of Hot Lead, Cold Justice (Caleb York #5) in exchange for reviews at Amazon and other reviewing sites/blogs. Amazon, of course, is key.

[All copies have been claimed. Thank you!]

If you read the book and dislike it, you are relieved of your obligation to review it (though of course you can).

If you drop by here regularly, you know that reviews are a matter of some interest on these updates, and even of controversy. But reviews are important because they are one of the only sales tools available to authors. In our case, Barb and I are of an age (even before the pandemic) where we are no longer doing book tours. For years we supported our books with trips to such exotic locales as California, Texas and New York. But a waning desire to travel, and the increasing ineffectiveness of signings, has made book tours less attractive to us. (Centuries and Sleuths in Chicago remains our only regular stop.)

For a long time we maintained regular attendance at Bouchercon, where we could do signings for readers from hither and yon, but health issues prevented attending several of those and of course Covid prevented Bouchercon entirely last year. And we have already decided to pass on New Orleans.

We also did San Diego Comic Con regularly, but that too fell victim to health issues and later the pandemic. I will be doing a one-man (well, two-man because Andrew Sumner of Titan is interviewing me) panel for the upcoming virtual SDCC.

Barb and I hope to do both Bouchercon and SDCC next year. Those health issues I mentioned are well in hand, but we had to skip Bouchercon because of my heart surgery and later lung surgery, and Barb’s pertussis, which had me landing in New Orleans and immediately getting called back to Iowa, never getting beyond the New Orleans airport.

How much good reviews do, I’m not sure. But they seem to be the only thing left to us. They are not infallible –Antiques Ravin’ got rave reviews in all four publishing industry trades (Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal and Booklist), after which the series was promptly dropped by Kensington after thirteen successful entries.

The good news about the Antiques/Trash ‘n’ Treasures series, of course, is that we’re doing it for another publisher now – Severn, a British house, which pleases Vivian Borne no end (everything, she reports, is “tickety boo”).

And now I will interrupt myself to share with you this remarkable review for the first Severn House Antiques entry, Antiques Carry On, from Publisher’s Weekly.

Antiques Carry On Cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo
Antiques Carry On
Barbara Allan. Severn, $28.99

Allan’s fast, funny 15th Trash ‘ n’ Treasures mystery (after 2020’s Antiques Fire Sale) takes brassy Vivian Borne and her long-suffering daughter, Brandy, the owners of the Trash ‘n’ Treasures antiques shop in Serenity, Iowa, to London, where, at the request of fellow Serenity antiques dealer Skylar James, they drop by the Old Curiosity Shop, whose proprietor, Humphrey Westcott, has a reprint of Murder on the Orient Express for Skylar to give his Christie-loving wife. When Humphrey is found stabbed to death with a letter-opener bearing Brandy’s fingerprints, the women are interrogated by a representative of MI5. Fortunately, CCTV footage proves the Bornes’ innocence, and they are unceremoniously sent back to Iowa, where more suspicious deaths await them. The pair investigate in their own inimitable fashion, eventually discovering a link between the murders and the copy of Murder on the Orient Express. Vivian and Brandy share narrative duties, and their amusing commentary provides much of the book’s appeal (Vivian admits she has “just a teensy-weensy, hardly-worth-mentioning, hint of bi-polar disorder”). Allan (the pen name of Barbara and Max Allan Collins) consistently entertains.

We are obviously thrilled about that one. The book will be out in early July. And the industry trades, PW a star in that galaxy of four planets, fuel both library and bookstore sales.

Let me interrupt this discussion (if me yammering can be so described) and share a wonderful fan letter we received – an actual, physical, through-the-mail letter.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Collins,

Thank you so much for continuing to add new novels to the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series. I just finished reading Antiques Fire Sale. I am looking forward to the release of your newest addition, Antiques Carry On! The characters seem almost like friends to me, since I have followed their adventures and shenanigans through all of your novels.

My sister Jessica Butler and I are huge fans! We share laughs as we discuss the stories. Please keep writing because your works bring joy and delight into our world! Thank you for sharing your talents with us.

Best wishes,
Suzanne Schumann

Fan photo

To say this kind of response makes our day (and not in a Dirty Harry sense) is an understatement. A reader response like this makes the struggle worth it, and believe me, writing – and publishing – is a struggle. Hoping it doesn’t sound patronizing, I am so proud of Barb for developing into a wonderful writer and collaborator – she is the one who makes these books really, really special.

* * *

On another front, it’s been difficult to get reviews for the John Sand series. This may be because Wolfpack – despite getting huge attention in the trades for its burgeoning success and innovative ways – places an emphasis on e-book publication, which seems (to me at least) to make reviews from the trades more difficult to get. How difficult? Neither Come Spy With Me nor Live Fast, Spy Hard has received a single review in any one of them.

Which is why the Amazon reader reviews are so crucial, as are reviews on Internet sites and in the handful of surviving newsstand mystery magazines (Ellery Queen, Strand, Mystery Scene). Thankfully we have had support from two key sites, Bookgasm and Pulp Fiction Reviews, and the Rap Sheet may be doing reviews soon. With your forbearance, I will share the Bookgasm review of Live Fast, Spy Hard with you right now:

Live Fast, Spy Hard, the second title in the John Sand series by Max Allan Collins and his writing partner, Matthew Clemens, again features the former MI6 agent and his wife, Stacey. This time, however, Stacey is the cause of the problems that send Sand around the globe while keeping one stop ahead of potential assassins.

John Sand is living out his role as a high-ranking executive of the oil company owned by Stacey’s father. But all the while he keeps a secret from his wife. He has been tracking Jake Lonestarr, the traitorous business partner of Stacey’s father. Lonestarr is assumed dead, but Sand still feels he is still at large.

Then Stacey mysteriously disappears. Lonestarr is the chief suspect in Sand’s search for his wife. But there is reason to believe that Las Vegas gangster Anthony Morello might also be responsible. Or is Stacey actually hiding from someone that Sand does not know of?

Sand’s search takes him Berlin to Mexico, and finally to the jungles of Curacao. But can he find his missing wife before an army of assassins catches up with him?

The authors present the novel in a third-person perspective, keeping the focus mainly with Sand. There are, however, occasional shifts that allow us to know the thoughts and emotions of Stacey and those intent on ending Sand’s life.

And while the novel’s tone and structure continues to follow the traditions of Ian Fleming’s classic James Bond stories, the references to Bond are noticeably less than the first Sand novel (Come Spy With Me), but Collins and Clemens continue their satirical wordplay with both the title and chapter headings.

Also reduced are the real-life figures Sand encounters. Here, they are mainly confined to President John F. Kennedy – who tries to enlist Sand into a new international spy agency — and, briefly, movie legend John Wayne.

Familiarity with the first Sand novel is not essential. The authors even devote the opening chapter to how Sand and Stacey first met. But reading this latest Sand adventure is greatly enhanced if you already met both characters.

Is this the last encounter of John Sand and his beautiful, resourceful wife? That, it seems, is up to Collins and Clemens. For the time being, we have these two thoroughly entertaining and exciting thrillers to enjoy. —Alan Cranis

Well, Live Fast, Spy Hard will not be the last John Sand book, because just last night Matt and I shipped To Live and Spy in Berlin to Wolfpack editor Paul Bishop.

We love doing these books and the only way we will stop is if sales don’t encourage us to continue. Reader response has been excellent – lots of nice things have been (and are being) said on Facebook about John Sand. But we need you readers out there who like Quarry, Mike Hammer, Nolan, and Nate Heller (even the Antiques fans) to give Sand, John Sand, a try.

Ron Fortier at Pulp Fiction Reviews also likes Live Fast, Spy Hard. His lovely review is right here.

Finally, here’s another great Shoot-out at Sugar Creek review.

M.A.C.

Previews of Coming Attractions

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021
Kiss Her Goodbye Paperback

Last week’s book giveaway went well and all thirty signed copies (ten each of Two for the Money, Kiss Her Goodbye (with the uncensored ending), and Shoot-out at Sugar Creek) have been distributed.

I am grateful for those of you who participate in these book giveaways and follow up with reviews. It’s one of the few things an author can do to promote titles in the Covid era, though even before that bookstore signings had already declined in effectiveness.

A giveaway for the recently published third John Sand novel, Live Fast, Spy Hard, will be offered here as soon as I get copies of the trade paperback. At this writing, I’m not sure the “real book” edition is available yet, though I’m checking. The e-book is available now, of course, and we’re already generating some nice Amazon reviews.

The new publisher of the Antiques Trash ‘n’ Treasures series has asked for another book, and Barb and I had already been working on the proposal for what will be Antiques Liquidation. We will be plotting it in more detail this week, doing a chapter by chapter breakdown. As some of you know, Barb writes a complete first draft and then I do the final one, with her input of course.

Meanwhile, my co-author Matt Clemens has been working on his draft of To Live and Spy in Berlin, the third John Sand novel, which we plotted and broke down into chapters a few months ago. I will be starting my draft very soon.

What I have been working on are two projects for Neo-Text, a new publisher (chiefly of e-books) with a great web site you should be checking out regularly.

The first project, which I completed several months ago, is Meet Fancy Anders, the overall title of a series of three novellas about a female private eye during World War Two in Los Angeles; the novellas are interrelated and will become a novel of that title. Fancy goes undercover as a defense plant worker, a Hollywood Canteen hostess, and a movie extra. I’m extremely excited about this series, which was fun to do, and the e-books will be illustrated by a top female artist, those illustrations porting over to various book versions – likely a trade paperback but also a larger-size, possibly hardcover book with full display of the mostly color art. The idea is for each chapter to begin with a full-page illustration.

Dave Thomas

The second project, which I’ve hinted at here, is co-written by Dave Thomas of SCTV fame (who was also a writer/producer on the TV series Bones and Blacklist). It’s called The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton and is a genre-straddling (s-f and crime) saga that will appear in three parts and, like Fancy, be collected as a book, again possibly in several formats. We are lining up a top comic book artist to do the covers and illustrations. I finished my draft of the third and final part today, and will be doing revisions this week, then shipping it out to Dave for our final mutual edit/tweak. He’s a great storyteller and this is very much a fifty/fifty collaboration. And I think this novel will be one of my best.

This is sizing up as a very busy year for me. The Heller novel I’ll be doing (well, it straddles the latter part of this year and next) will sideline Quarry for a while, and Caleb York will have to cool his spurs likely till 2022 or even ‘23. I have a Mike Hammer novel to complete, the Spillane bio with James Traylor, and another Spillane project that will be announced later.

I think I’ve spilled enough beans already.

* * *

I have encountered two films that are not likely to be on your radar – indie productions that are not big-budget affairs but that you may find worth your while.

My son Nate and I liked the sound of The Kid Detective, a 2020 film starring Adam Brody, and decided to give it a try. It’s one of my favorite films in some time (and I think Nate has the same opinion). The premise is whimsical – in a small town, a 32-year-old private detective is existing on the fumes remaining from his high octane reputation as a kid detective when he was, yes, a kid. It’s as if Encyclopedia Brown grew up and tried to continue his detective adventures into adulthood, with the expected absurd results. The idyllic town hasn’t weathered the years any better than the now-grown kid detective, and his fellow citizens rather resent and even deride him. But he hangs in there. The humor here is gentle with a surprising edge, and laugh-out-loud funny frequently, though two real crimes – one old, one new – hang over the comical proceedings like dark, gathering clouds.

Despite the smalltown setting, and the quirky caprice of the premise, this is a genuine private eye movie with film noir themes and under- and overtones despite a surface that might be an after-school special. Prepare to be sucker-punched, because when the two mysteries converge and pay handsomely off, things get as dark as any noir. And the final moments are serious and moving and also surprising.

The other film worth checking out, if what I am about to describe intrigues you, is VHYES, a 2019 feature described thusly on IMDB: “This bizarre retro comedy, shot entirely on VHS and Beta, follows 12-year-old Ralph as he accidentally records home videos and his favorite late night shows over his parents’ wedding tape.” If you read the Amazon reviews, you will find some viewers outraged and highly annoyed by the film, and others loving it (I am in the latter camp). Like Kid Detective, it has a whimsical premise that becomes more serious as the film progresses. The home-movie events that get intermittently recorded over are, as unlikely as it first seems, a narrative that has some emotional impact (again, like Kid Detective).

What the IMDB write-up neglects to mention is that the VHS cartridge is being taped over in 1987 and the entire film is set in that period. In some respects VHYES is in the tradition of the ‘70s TV parody films like The Groove Tube, Tunnelvision and Kentucky Fried Movie, pre-SCTV efforts often featuring Second City performers. VHYES features Kerri Kenney and Thomas Lennon of RENO 911, which may be enough to sell some of you – it did me.

You get snippets of public access, PBS and kid’s shows, commercials, spoofs of Home Shopping Network and Antiques Roadshow, and a real story, if you’re paying attention.

* * *

A reminder that Barb and I are doing a Master Class via Zoom that is available to anyone interested. Here’s the info again:

DSM Book Festival: Sat. April 3
Workshop: Max Allan Collins at 9 a.m. (duration 1 hour)
Log-in: 8:40 a.m.

Workshop description:
Learn from the masters, Max Allan Collins and his wife Barbara Collins, as they each present their Top 5 Fiction Writing Tips and then field questions from the class. Together, Max and Barb have published the Trash & Treasures mystery series. Max is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of Road to Perdition, True Detective, the Quarry series, Girl Can’t Help It and many more.

The registration deadline is today! (March 30)

https://www.dsmpartnership.com/dsmbookfestival/attend/writers-workshops

M.A.C.

Live Fast, Try Hard to Find It…Shoot-Out Where?

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

You apparently can pre-order the print version of Live Fast, Spy Hard at Amazon now, although for some reason the book doesn’t turn up when you search anywhere except at the listing for Come Spy With Me, which provides a link to the next book (this one) in the John Sand series. Since the book in both Kindle and trade Paperback is being published this week, that’s a little disconcerting. But there’s no reason not to go ahead and pre-order here.

Matt Clemens and I are already working on the third novel, To Live and Spy in Berlin.

Matt and I are both longtime Bond/Ian Fleming/’60s-era spy fiction fans. I have told here, a number of times, how I gravitated to Ian Fleming when I ran out of Mickey Spillane books to read, and that I was a Bond fan well before the first movie came out. And that I talked my parents into driving me, on a school night, to Davenport – thirty miles away – to see Dr. No. I was in junior high.

If you drop by here regularly, or even now and then, you may be aware that I wrote novels every summer during my high school years and spent the following school year trying (unsuccessfully) to market them. There were four such novels, the first three starring private eye Matt Savage, but the fourth of the novels – the last of the high school novels – was a Bond imitation about spy Eric Flayr (I don’t remember the novel’s title). I was very much caught up in the spy mania, as were many of my male schoolmates. We carried briefcases to school (after From Russia With Love) and were caught up in an imaginary plot to overthrow the school.

It seemed innocent then.

So writing about John Sand, the spy James Bond was based on (the implied conceit of the series), has brought me full circle. I think Matt feels the same way. It’s gratifying that readers, so far, have responded well to the series and understand where we are coming from. We studiously avoid camp, but it’s fair to say we’re slightly tongue-in-cheek.

And we are grateful to Wolfpack, editor Paul Bishop, and publisher Mike Bray for allowing us to indulge ourselves in a fashion that appears to be entertaining readers.

The fact that you have to go hunting on Amazon to find the Live Fast, Spy Hard listing is an ongoing frustration to me. Any number of forthcoming titles of mine are not showing up when my name is searched, and yet my listings are littered with the works of other authors who Amazon is pushing to readers who enjoy my stuff. Here is a startling concept that seems to elude Amazon and its trusty algorithms – readers who like my stuff may wish to encounter the titles of things of mine they haven’t read. (NOTE: After further checking, searching “Max Allan Collins” on Amazon, the books don’t come up; but apparently without quotes those books do.)

Some interesting things have turned up on the web that I’d like to share with you.

Ron Fortier at Pulp Fiction Reviews is looking at each novel in the Caleb York western series, but he’s doing so out of order, as he’s able to get his hands on the various titles. Here he takes a splendid look at The Bloody Spur, book three in the Spillane/Collins series.


Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo

There’s a new one coming soon, Shoot-out at Sugar Creek. Here’s a first look at the cover.

The Mystery File site has put a review from pulp fiction expert Art Scott of my long-ago Mallory title, Kill Your Darlings, from 1001 Midnights.

They have also posted a review by the late, very great John Lutz about the first Nathan Heller novel, True Detective. This is well worth looking at, particularly in light of the warmly received news that I will be doing two Heller novels for Hard Case Crime.

For reasons mysterious to me, my novelizations of the three Brendan Fraser Mummy movies appear to remain very popular (though out of print for decades now) and have generated a number of quotations at various web sites – like this one.

Finally, this is an hysterical (in several senses of the word) You Tube rant by a big guy who likes my novel Quarry till he finds out Quarry (whose name he hilariously mispronounces) weighs 155 pounds. Everything else about the book he seems to like, even love, but he refuses to read the rest of the series (despite salivating over the McGinnis covers) because Quarry isn’t a big guy. Dude – ever hear of Audie Murphy?

M.A.C.

John Sand at Wolfpack, Heller at Hard Case Crime

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021
Live Fast, Spy Hard cover

The second John Sand novel by Matt Clemens and me – Live Fast, Spy Hard – is out this month. The Kindle version is available for pre-order right now (for $3.99).

The Kindle pub date is March 17. The trade paperback edition should follow quickly, but I don’t have a date for that yet.

The cover is, in the opinion of the authors, a dandy. Wolfpack is coming up with some great covers for both new books of mine and for backlist titles. I remain astonished by how fast they move – this is a book Matt and I delivered this year. Traditional publishing takes a minimum of nine months from delivery to publication.

You can read this one without having read the first book in the series, Come Spy With Me, which of course is already available here.

Matt and I have already plotted the third book, To Live and Spy in Berlin, and Matt is working on the rough draft right now. I will be starting my draft next month. Whether we’ve written a trilogy or the first three books in a longer series depends on the response of readers, i.e., sales. But we are having an enormously good time writing these slightly tongue-in-cheek yarns about the “real-life” spy that just might be who Ian Fleming based his James Bond character on.

Wolfpack’s edition of Reincarnal has been corrected as to its messed-up table of contents, and the collection has been getting some lovely notices. Shoot the Moon has been well-received, too. Again, Wolfpack has done beautiful covers for the books, the former a new title, the latter a restructuring of the collection Early Crimes with the title novel of the new version brought forward to emphasize that it’s a novel with a couple of bonus short stories, and not a short story collection.

The Shoot the Moon book giveaway found the ten copies going lightning fast. Again, if you’ve received books in any of these giveaways, please remember the point of the exercise is to get some reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.

* * *

More good news, at least for me and for Nate Heller fans. For some time, I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing Heller novels at Hard Case Crime. With Quarry, Nolan and a few other titles of mine at HCC, I’m their most published author, and I’ve built a nice readership there, some of which (I suspect) has not tried Heller, intimidated by the historical nature (and sometimes length) of the books. These readers don’t realize that Heller is very much in the mold of Quarry, Nolan, Mike Hammer and other characters of mine. I consider Heller my signature character, and he has been my most enduring creation with those novels bringing me the most critical acclaim.

Additionally, Road to Perdition – the graphic novel that remains my major claim to fame – is a spin-off of sorts of the Heller saga. It came about when an editor at DC asked for a graphic novel in the Heller vein, but with new characters.

I’ve long felt that the retro publishing style of HCC would be a perfect way to widen the Heller readership, and editor Charles Ardai agreees. The titles of the new Hellers – The Big Bundle and Too Many Bullets – will give them a decided HCC feel. Recently, when the Heller run at Forge ended after five books (Do No Harm the most recent), the opportunity to move to Hard Case became a reality. Parent company Titan has offered a two-book Heller contract at HCC, and I am very grateful to publisher Nick Landau and his crew (including my Mike Hammer editor, Andrew Sumner) for their belief in me and my work.

A two-book contract will allow me to complete the five-book Kennedy saga (and the two-book Robert Kennedy cycle), which may bring the series to an end. Heller began in 1983, and – having celebrated (or is that survived) my 73rd birthday last week – I am not sure the rigorous research required for a Heller is something I’ll be up to after this two-book contract is delivered (one book early next year, the other early the following year).

If I do feel up to going on with Heller after the Kennedy saga is complete (the other books are Bye Bye Baby, Target Lancer and Ask Not), that will depend upon the response, chiefly sales. Subjects I’m contemplating are the killing of Martin Luther King, the murder of George Reeves, and Watergate.

Do No Harm continues to get strong notices, including Jon Breen’s current write-up (complete with the cover on display) in Mystery Scene. If you haven’t read this one, a reminder: no mass market or trade paperback is scheduled, so you’ll have to spring for hardcover (or Kindle).

* * *

The decision by the Dr. Seuss estate to pull half a dozen titles because of racist imagery is a smart move on their part, but a sad day for authors and, for that matter, readers.

Still, racism in a children’s book, however unintentional, makes those books, published long ago, problematic today. I get that. But I feel the best way to deal with this – in this current judgmental climate, at least – is to publish a disclaimer that, in a kids’ book, encourages parental guidance and discussion. That a gentle soul like Ted Geisel – who preached racial tolerance by way of parable through wonderful cartoons and fun absurd rhymes – faces this kind of thing is distressing if understandable.

TCM is going to great lengths to have discussions of classic films that have committed the sin of not being “woke” forty, fifty, sixty years ago. This is nothing new at TCM, who did the same for Charlie Chan movies quite a while back. Whether they are being socially responsible or playing a CYA game is in the mind of the beholder.

Disney and Warner’s, on their classic cartoon collections, have long had disclaimers, and my pal Leonard Maltin has delivered some of those (so has Whoopee Goldberg). Again, with kids I get this. But grown-ups actually shouldn’t need the disclaimers (although CYA does seem to require it), because anyone not standing on their IQ ought to have an awareness of when a film was made and at least a vague idea of the cultural context.

A stunted sense of humor and particularly lack of a sense of irony seems at play here. My generation, through underground comix and comedy of the SNL and SCTV variety, mocked racial and sexual stereotypes; humor, satire, is an excellent way to make such points, though trying to do so now would be perilous.

As usual, nuance has gone out the window. This may come as a shock to some, but the Mickey Rooney Asian bit in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was always offensive, and was found so at the time and ever since. But it reflected director Blake Edwards’s slapstick instincts and, again, is a spoofing of racism; it doesn’t work in Breakfast because it’s so over the top and unfunny, and is jarringly out of step with the otherwise sophisticated tone of the movie.

But I am sure we will see a move to ban the same director’s Pink Panther movies with the Inspector Clouseau/Cato relationship. Is there some way to explain that “my little yellow friend” was funny because it was so wrong, and we knew at the time that it was?

The danger of such self-righteous attitudes is that the work of ethnic artists – great actors like Burt Kwouk (Cato), Tim Moore (the Kingfish), and Mantan Moreland (Charlie Chan’s chauffeur) – may be lost to time, censored out of existence. I shudder to think that the Great American Novel (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) will be banned from even more bookshelves. Is John Ford’s film The Searchers any less a condemnation of racist hatred because a white actor in “redface” plays Scar, the antagonist chief? The answer might be yes, but I would suggest a more logical, fair answer would be, “It was made in 1956.”

This notion that intention is irrelevant is especially troubling. Of course intention isn’t an excuse or a free pass; but neither is it beside the point. Good intentions may pave the road to hell (aka perdition), but they are a sign of a teachable situation where, say, a KKK rally isn’t.

* * *

Here’s a terrific review of Skim Deep.

Here’s a reprint of a Kill Your Darlings review by the knowledgeable Art Scott. It’s a Mallory novel.

And here’s an extensive look at my work (an expansion of a previous piece) at Atomic Junkshop.

M.A.C.